Thursday, June 28, 2007

AT pictures so far...

Hopefully that works... I managed to bungle some stuff, so no complaining! Yes some are blurry, don't rub your eyes... you may get deet in them.

Back out to resting the foot in the woods today. Looks like I have about 10 days to get better, because I can't carry too much more food than that... not with this stack of 5 books, anyway!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Back in Stratton

I pulled out of Stratton, ME a few days ago, but only made about 7 miles. I've been holed up in a tent trying to keep my foot up. I think the arch pain is more serious than I first thought. I've road walked and got a lift back into Stratton to pick up more food. I'm planning on staying here the night and going into the next shelter south where I left off with enough food to last me another week or 10 days. Hopefully that will be long enough a rest period to get going full steam again.

Morale is low at the moment, but should be on the upswing again soon enough. It's sad seeing the friendly folks I've been walking with pulling ahead. I've been plowing through books just sitting around the last couple of days, so that's good. Working up some ideas for things to whittle... thought about carving a new foot but couldn't figure out the right attachment method (duct tape isn't surviving the stream crossings). I'm now thinking of a line of designer toothpicks, or strike-nowhere-match-ends.

Pervasive random kindness... that's the latest idea that's been running through my head for the last couple of days. Why am I so ready to give anything I have to someone that I can help, but feel so uncomfortable when I'm on the receiving end? I haven't figured that one out yet, but the last couple of days there have been a few people that were just too darn helpful. To the point that I wanted to go hide so that they wouldn't feed me to death or go out of their way to help my footsie. I think I'm getting close to just taking any and all help from any kind sap willing to give it. There seems to be a line somewhere between accepting no help and taking all help, but I don't know where that line is. I'm so used to being on the "take none" side that I'm awkward shifting to the other side. I figure if I step on enough toes just to either side of that line, I'll eventually figure out the right balance.

On to getting supplies, and cooling out.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Stratton Maine. ~185 miles in

I've been having a great time. And and arduous time. I was trying to relate mountain height to Mom the other day when I thought about walking up steps in a building. The observatory in the Empire state building is on the 86th floor, at 1050 feet high. My day yesterday included walking 16 miles over rough terrain in rain (making falls on slippery roots and rocks most probable), and climbing up and down the bigelow mountains. That includes about 6000 feet of up, and another 6000 down. Consider walking from Battery park to midtown, up the empire state building, back down, over to battery park, and repeat around 6 times. Then put slippery roots and rocks all over every surface, and do it in the rain. Yesterday alone, I fell about 5 times pretty cleanly. Only two times into bogs, and once on sheer rock with about 10 feet of sliding down into some type of evergreen tree. It gets, at times, exciting, boring, surreal, lonely, frightening, and very, very tiring.

I've been doing some really short walking days due to finding some spectacular chilling spots. Think laying near a sandy beach on the side of a leech infested pond, canoe rowing at dusk, waiting out rain under a several hundred ton boulder resting on a few pebbles, reclining in the shade on a finger of land extending into the center of a lake, rolling in the pine needles in an older growth tree area, dipping feet in a 15 foot-triple-cascade waterfall surrounded by black cliffs, laying down in a tub shaped depression in a fast moving stream, pond shore resting against a hot rock with 25 mile an hour winds blowing off the pond waiting for sunset or sun rise, stretching out on the top of a 3000 foot peak with 360 degree views for hundreds of miles. I'm onto my 4th book, because of all these great spots I keep finding to relax. I'm going slower than some folks, but I think I may be having more fun.

I'm at 149 lbs today after a swell BM (which are arriving promptly at first wake, rather than randomly though the day). I was sitting at 180 -ish a couple months before the start of this trip, and hit a mind numbing 159 when weighed on a friend's bathroom scale a few days before the trip. A friend lent me some pants for this trip, which were a 33 waist, and though they fit just right a few weeks before I left, they were a little lose when I left, and are now dropping to my ankles without something to hold them up. My first pant dropping was just after entering the burg of Caratunk from a 16 - 18 mile day, and setting my pack down. I tried to walk off, then noticed the breeze, luckily before anyone else did.

For those that have eaten with me, you probably remember that my appetite was usually pretty small, often meaning leftovers or wasted food. A week ago, I had breakfast, a large lunch, and a couple hours later a 3 plate dinner plus dessert, followed by a few beers and several sodas, fruit drinks, and more beer. I'm pushing around 4000 calories a day, I think. I've bumped a raman soup, which is usually 200 calories alone, up to around 1200-1600 calories by adding sausage, EVOO, cheese, and any breaded items I can find into the mix. I'm eating several candy bars a day, plus large dinners, but still missing a break even calorie mark. Soon, I'll start eating my muscles unless I can figure out some new ways to reduce calorie burn, or add calories to my meals. While in town, I'm chowing down, and basically packing the pounds on all day long.

I saw myself in a full mirror for the first time in 21 days today. Wow.... I'm missing a bunch of me. My calves look like they are expecting in the next 6 months. My ankles and feet look swollen, and they probably are a bit, but oddly enough, I think they are also just growing muscle and look much bigger than I remember. My inner ankle bone used to stick out, but now is level with the flesh around it (freaky looking after 28 years of seeing that bone protrude, and now vanish). My leg skin looks like I'm into some serious S+M, or at least a klutz. I'm digging my hair though. A week or so between using shampoo makes me look like the cool new york kiddos, even if I smell like the cool new york hobos. The ladies have yet to notice, though the mosquitoes seem to dig it.

Loons! I've been spending the last several nights near ponds just to catch the eerie sound of the loons calling at night. If you haven't heard loon song, freaking hop off this mail and go look it up. It is astonishing, surreal, and well worth only covering 6 miles a day to stick around. I even borrowed a canoe one day to go out on Pierce pond (supposed to have 27 nesting loon families) and wait for them.

Fun trivia; New Jersey, and Massachusetts have Hess gas trucks for sale in department stores. Maine has logging trucks for sale in department stores. $43.89.

I'm still awkward meeting new people, but I am seeing some of that tend to fall away. I'm not yet sure if that is because I'm starting to develop a pattern or list of topics that help ease new folks into conversation or not. Do other people have such a problem getting conversation going? As is, I feel like these starter conversations are rote, and dry feeling, even if they lead into much more interesting topics. Gift of gab... why for didn't thou get jammed into me at birth? I'm getting to be sort of a conversation facilitator. I'm good at bumping into folks and remembering lots of details about them, which I in turn pass on to others. When a couple of people I've remotely introduced bump into each other, they already know what they have in common. It's like conversation kindling, what I'm doing. Luckily, I've been in the lead of the pack, and slowly dropped behind, only to push out a good mileage day to get back with an already known group. This means I get to spread news forward and backward along the trail. This type of news spreading, interestingly enough happens even if I don't make it happen. Somehow we just get to know news that is leading or trailing us by a few days. Sometimes this comes from the trail registers (log books at the shelters); sometimes it comes from travelers in the opposite direction, or speed hikers coming from behind. It's like small town news on the move.

I've become pretty good at rolling cigarettes, grabbing bugs out of the air, starting a fire even when damp (though not so good at the soaking wet fire yet).

It gets lonely... if you know what I mean. Haven't worked out the details of masturbation yet. Toilet paper is too important to waste on such a comfort, leaves probably won't cut it, and you (or at least, I) don't want to carry around any leakage for a week. I've been putting some serious thought into the topic, but have yet to experiment. I knew I was in for a dry spell out here, but this is getting into biblical drought proportions quickly. If I figure out a good solution, I'll fill you in :)

Maybe more later... I'll be here in booming Stratton, ME. waiting for details on the health of the cat, which has had some serious problems recently.

As always, thanks guys! Getting random calls and emails from folks is a real moral boost. This hike is now mostly a mental game and every little bit that you throw at me makes it just a hair easier to keep walking onward.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Monson Maine

So, I've gone a bit over 100 miles in 11 days. I hopped off the trail just about 10 miles north of Monson Maine, and am staying at Shaw's Hostel for a couple days. I picked up a new pair of shoes yesterday which should help me get rid of these deep bruises I've been getting around my ankles. No blisters, but boy do I hurt in fun places! Also bought a pair of underwear... was going commando, but a recent rip in the crotch of a pair of pants has opened my mind to covering the bits of me that tend to hang out.

I can't describe the beauty or hardships I've seen out in the wilderness of Maine, but if I could come even close, just picture walking 50 miles in the rain through bogs, and deep mud puddles, sliding on slippery roots that cover every square inch that isn't covered by rocks, then getting a clear day where you walk up to the top of the empire state building a couple times over, and look out to 100+ miles of mountains fading off into the distance, and green trees as far as the eye can see. I cried a bit on Whitecap mountain, my first clear view from the top of a tall peak. 360 degree views as far as I could see, after days of rain and cloudy conditions. The view was worth that trip, and there are still so many more to come. Pictures can't do it justice; driving to the top just for the view wouldn't do it justice; the walk up from far away made it much more meaningful.

I've carried a few lost items along the way. There have been things that a rational person wouldn't leave behind on purpose. For example, my second day into the 100 mile wilderness I found a food bag left alone at a shelter. No note. About 5-10 pounds of food. Most people should be carrying around 8-10 days of food to get through the 100 miles, and this was 3 or 4 days of food. I figured someone was probably 10 miles south and kicking themselves because they left it behind by accident. I carried the food for around 10-12 miles south before giving up and leaving it at the next shelter. It was throwing my balance off and was killing my hips, knees, and feet with the extra weight. A couple days later I ran into some folks who had the full story of a guy who found the bag and left some of his food because he was hopping off the trail to give up. I wish he had left a note... I would have just eaten the food, rather than carry it!

A question popped into my head as I fell asleep on a real bed last night around 6 other hikers: "who is more important, me or you?" The answer to that question I think tells a lot about how a person behaves. There have been some very self focused folks that I sort of admire, but can't stand because they don't give a shred of care to anyone around them. On the other hand, I've recently dived into knee/thigh high water when a 56 year old hiker slipped off a tree-trunk-bridge face first into the water. She has problems getting up when the pack takes her down, and I was concerned that her head might get shoved under water. She was fine, but I wonder what some of those self centered folks would have done in that same case... probably wouldn't have noticed because they were already trekking down the trail. I'd like to find a happier balance between being self-less and self-full. I am trying to focus more on my wants and needs first, then trying to help others as I can after I'm content. I'm not doing so good at the balancing act just yet. Who knows, maybe I'll be a stuck-up ass-hat when I get back.

I've also been thinking how hard it is to walk all these miles alone. When I don't have anyone to share the moments and stories with, they tend to blend into a murky picture of things past, rather than retaining their brilliance. I was alone for too many days and nights. I really miss just having someone around to help keep events in time organized. I haven't been writing anything down as far as a log, but those things I've shared with others along the trail I tend to remember so much more than those things I haven't had a chance to share. I thank all of you guys for being ears at a distance so some of these things stay more clear in my head. I may start writing things down, but it's like the mountain peak view; those events/sights mean something different to me who lived through the whole context, rather than through just the written word. I thank everyone who has helped out along the way, and are still helping, and I miss almost all (there's some ass-hat-ery for ya!) of you too much to express in writing.

Next mail from cartunk or stratton, I think.